'Net Zero 'pledge could require tax on meat, flights and fuel...but each person could get £300 dividend 

Flights will probably become more expensive under the government's net zero pledge
Flights will probably become more expensive under the government's net zero pledge Credit: Toby Melville - Reuters

Cutting greenhouse emissions to ‘net zero’ as pledged by the government could require a tax on meat, flights and fuel, analysis by the London School of Economics (LSE) has shown.

Analysts have advised unfreezing the fuel duty escalator which would add 10p per litre addition to fuel duty for drivers in 2020, rising to 14p per litre in 2050.

The escalator was established under Tony Blair’s government as an environmental tax, but has been paused for the past nine years.

Experts at the LSE also suggest a new tax on red meat and fertilisers which would see the price of beef ruse by 23p per kilogram of beef and 46p per kilogram of lamb in 2020, rising to 70p and £1.41  by 2050 respectively.

Taxing aviation would also see the cost of long haul flights rising by 6.5 per cent which, equating to an increase of £33 from £527 in £560 for a flight from London to New York.

The analysts have already been in discussions with the Department for Business (BEIS) and are due to meet with Treasury officials next month.

Josh Burke of the  Policy Fellow in the LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, said: “We think the impact can be mitigated if the proceeds of a carbon tax are redistributed to households in the form of a citizen dividend and this is coupled with a comprehensive energy efficiency programme that reduces energy demand.

“We have engaged the Government and already met with BEIS with further meetings set up to present to the wider BEIS teams in the coming weeks as well as meetings with Treasury in July.”

The LSE believes each citizen could end up receiving around £300 each year as a dividend from carbon taxes.

Net zero means achieving an overall balance between greenhouse gases - such as carbon - emitted by human activities and greenhouse gases removed from the atmosphere by human activities.

A leaked letter last week showed the Treasury warning that making the shift to a zero emissions economy would cost at least £1 trillion.

But experts have warned that the cost of inaction could be many times higher and on Wednesday, Theresa May said there was a ‘moral duty’ to leave the world in a better condition than ‘we inherited.’

Speaking at Imperial College London, Mrs May pledged to end Britain’s contribution to climate change by 2050, making it the first major economy to put such an ambitious target into law.

“Some people think you can either have low emissions or economic growth - that's not the case,” she said.

"Actually what we have shown already is you can lower emissions, and we have this net-zero target, and have economic growth at the same time."

Hitting net zero will mean an end to the heating of homes with traditional gas boilers, more green electricity, and a switch from petrol and diesel cars to electric vehicles, walking and cycling.

Any remaining pollution in 2050, from such areas as aviation will need to be "offset" through measures to cut carbon such as planting trees.

The Woodland Trust called for tree cover to rise from 13 per cent to 17 per cent to help meet the target.

Woodland Trust Chief Executive Beccy Speight said: “There is a unique opportunity to link the response to the climate crisis to the equally vital response to the biodiversity crisis. In creating new, native, broadleaved woodlands and planting more trees into the landscape, existing woodland and other semi-natural habitats can be extended, restored and linked to enable wildlife to respond to climate change over the coming decades.”

The announcement by Mrs May was widely welcomed by scientists and environmental charities .

Prof David Reay, Professor of Carbon Management at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Time will tell what legacy it represents for the current Prime Minister, but it should at least ensure there are wheat fields for our great grandchildren to run through too."